Commentary

Michaels Looks To Do More For 'Mindful Makers'


Crafts retailer Michaels knows that the last two years have been about so much more than knitting scarves or baking bread. After launching its "Mindful Makers" positioning, it's looking for new ways to build connections between crafts and mental health.

And as the retailer gets ready for the all-important fourth quarter, Laura Denk, chief merchandising officer, tells Retail Insider its fans are ready to celebrate old holidays in all-new ways.

Retail Insider: The pandemic pushed people into many kinds of crafts and DIY projects, but that's subsiding. What trends are you seeing now?

Laura Denk: Back in 2019, we launched a new brand positioning, "We're here for the makers." And that worked well in 2020 and 2021. People were all about trying new things. We see a different twist now, with people leaning into arts and crafts as value, fending off rising prices.

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So we're trying to make sure the maker has everything they need to bring their craft to the next level, whether they're the hobbyist or the person who is reselling.

Retail Insider: How has your marketing changed in the last few years?

Denk: It's been a ride! We spent a lot of time in 2020 with the "here for the makers" launch. But now, we've evolved to empower every maker. We're not just here for you. We now want to help you continue to evolve your creative journey. We're helping customers bring their creative dreams to life.

But like everyone else, we've had to find this balance between brand and value. So we're adding things like a "lowest price of the season" sale again this year. We've added incremental direct mail, in-store and point-of-sale engagements, and more experiential offers. We're finding that middle ground.

Retail Insider: Last May, you launched a 30-day Mindful Making Creativity Challenge in partnership with Unplug Meditation. How will you build the "Mindful Makers" effort this year?

Denk: This mindful making is something we are trying to own. Crafting can be super meditative. And people get a lot of joy out of it. People like to take breaks from their lives to work on projects, and there's so much scientific data behind how much satisfaction we get from making something with our hands, whether it's crocheting or knitting or painting. About 70% of our customers say they craft primarily to de-stress. And we'll do more linked to mental health.

But I'm also seeing mindfulness in the trends going for fall and into Christmas and Hanukkah, especially as they center around family, friends and community. There is so much talk about family gatherings.

People are talking about togetherness and wanting to celebrate. And for many, these may be the first big celebrations in two and a half years.

Retail Insider: So what's new for Halloween?

Denk: We've got Dark Romance for everyone planning Goth weddings in September and October. And something called Naturally Scary, with lots of moss-green. And then we've got Happy Hollows, which is orange and white and black and very family-fun-oriented.

Retail Insider: Any change in your classes or other experiential offers?

Denk: We've got thousands of online classes on our site and on YouTube. And we're always offering store events, including make-breaks. We've continually had something going on in the store, continuing to learn and evolve post-COVID.

Retail Insider: How about you? Have you discovered a hidden crafty talent?

Denk: I'm not a traditional crafter. But I've started to make bracelets. And I love baking with my 15-year-old daughter. And I love, love, love the Christmas season. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I think I have five Christmas trees.

Retail Insider: Which categories are doing the best?

Denk: Our "wow" categories continue to do well: yarn, jewelry and tech, for example. And people are worried about inflation, so big-ticket items fall first.

Our most popular categories, like jewelry, tend to be lower-priced. So they're holding their own. And as people are talking more about economic pressures, they're talking about many things we can help with -- upcycling projects and DIY. So we're still feeling pretty good.

Retail Insider: Obviously, you compete with other craft stores. But in different ways, you also compete with companies like Etsy. How do you see the company in terms of the great movement toward personalization?

Denk: We're kind of our own entity. Of course, we look at others that sell arts and crafts. They are our direct competitors. What makes us different is that we are building a single destination to support all makers through their journey of getting inspired, shopping, learning, and creating.

So we have to make sure we're there for them, not only from a value perspective, but making sure we have items in stock so they can buy the bulk they need.

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